Somewhere between here and Belen,
the Rio Grande will narrow to a muddy bead,
no more than three feet across from shore to shore.
My friend, Nick Markulis, claims
he loves the river's color there, and will bathe
his toes in the water, and will go on and on
about a dry river in Athens that measures its life
in olive groves.
Stratis Thalassinos told me about these peculiar
waters that disappear and turn up again,
and, of course, you know of Arethusa's
fountain in Syracuse.
I do not accuse Markopoulos (do I have
the name right? — Markopoulos, Markulis,
fugitive names, fugitive lives docking in Halifax)
of being too conversant with asphodel meadows,
but one cannot remain composed
when hunters and cultic figures press their claims
upon a sainted afternoon.
Think now of the intimate authority of La Candelaria,
the Sunday morning concert,
the walk through the abandoned streets,
where all was an occasion of Bogotá,
a memory of Mazatlán, a shaping
necessity we might have met at Salamis.
Who can be sure
that this white cloth will be dissolved by death?
The Healing Improvisation of Hair
If you undo your do you wóuld be strange. Hair has been on my mind. I used to lean in the doorway and watch my stony woman wind the copper through the black, and play with my understanding, show me she cóuld take a cup of river water, and watch it shimmy, watch it change, turn around and become ash bone. Wind in the cottonwoods wakes me to a day so thin its breastbone shows, so paid out it shakes me free of its blue dust. I will arrange that river water, bottom juice. I conjure my head in the stream and ride with the silk feel of it as my woman bathes me, and shaves away the scorn, sponges the grit of solitude from my skin, laves the salt water of self-esteem over my feathering body. How like joy to come upon me in remembering a head of hair and the way water would caress it, and stress beauty in the flair and cut of the only witness to my dance under sorrow's tree. This swift darkness is spring's first hour. I carried my life, like a stone, in a ragged pocket, but I had a true weaving song, a sly way with rhythm, a healing tone.